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Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology+44 (0) 191 33 41147
Department Representative in the Durham Research Methods Centre
Fellow of the Durham Research Methods Centre
Member of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 


I am an archaeological scientist with broad interests in the applications of chemistry and quantitative methods in archaeology. By using isotope analysis of bones and teeth, I examine diet, migration, and exposure to lead pollution in past populations around the world. I have also worked extensively on bone diagenesis, the microscopic and chemical changes to buried bone. I apply Bayesian statistical analysis of dating information to answer questions about chronologies in eras from the Lower Palaeolithic to the Seventeenth Century. I also apply mathematical and statistical models to interpret isotope analyses and to evaluate palaeodemographic information. A key aspect of all my work is to integrate the science with the archaeological context and questions.

I’ve supervised research students in all these areas and I welcome enquiries from potential PhD students in any of them, or in related topics.

My first degree was in chemistry at Oxford, but whilst studying for that I discovered the delights of archaeology, going digging at weekends. I managed to combine these interests when I found a place for my undergraduate project and doctoral work in the Research Laboratory for Archaeology at Oxford. My D.Phil. explored the uptake of uranium into bone in order to improve the basis of uranium-series dating of bone, and a post-doctoral project explored wider issues of the effect of groundwater hydrology on the decay and preservation of bones.

In 1995 I came to Durham a Lecturer, where my research has broadened to cover the chemistry of bones and teeth applied to archaeological problems, and Bayesian statistics applied to archaeology, particularly to the analysis of scientific dating techniques, and with wider applications in Quaternary science. My research is a mixture of work conducted alone and collaborative projects with a range of scholars within Durham (I have collaborated with colleagues in Archaeology, History, Earth Sciences, Geography and Mathematics) and external to Durham (including Leiden, Groningen, Cambridge, Sheffield, Otago, Peking Universities and the British Geological Survey).

I have been Associate Director (2015-16), and then Director (2016-17) of the Insitute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies. I currently chair the Durham World Heritage Site Research Committee.

As a member and President (2012-18) of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland, I promote links between academic archaeology and those interested in the subject across the north-east of England.

Bayesian statistics in archaeology and Quaternary science
Radiocarbon wigglematch calibration

Bayesian statistics, as applied to dating in archaeology, allows the combination of different types of dating methods, substantial improvements in the resolution of dates, and the assigning of dates to events previously considered undateable. My contribution in this area has been to extend the method from its initial application to radiocarbon dates, to application to a wide variety of other dating methods, including uranium-series, luminescence and ESR dating. This has been applied to a major re-evaluation of the dating evidence for hominid fossils in the timeframe 500,000 to 50,000 years ago.

The Bayesian statistical paradigm has a wide range of potential applications in archaeology, which has led me to work on estimating age-at-death of humans and sheep, on predicting the location of archaeological sites in the landscape, and reconstructing the components of diet. I have also been involved in work on mathematical models for changes in nitrogen isotopes with weaning, and the analysis of uncertainty in chronologies constructed from ancient near eastern King Lists. I have co-supervised PhD students working on modelling the Mousterian-Aurignacian transition in Europe using radiocarbon dates, and on estimating the uncertainty in luminescence dates.

A major new Leverhulme Trust funded project based on work in this area started in 2020 with Martin Smith in Earth Sciences. A fizzle or a bang how fast was the Cambrian 'explosion'? transfers these methods to the Cambrian Period (540-485 million years ago).

Chemistry of archaeological bones and teeth

My bone and tooth chemistry research mixes technique development, theoretical studies, and archaeological application in collaboration with period specialists. Past work has examined age of weaning using nitrogen isotope ratios, developing a mathematical model and examining its application to a 19th century population from London. Past projects have examined migration into and around Britain using strontium and oxygen isotope ratios measured in Anglo-Saxon and Viking remains, migration of Crusaders, and diet and migration in the Dutch middle Neolithic. Recent and current work is examining the transition to agriculture in the northern Atacama Desert in Chile, the transition to pastoralism in semi-arid areas of the Near East and movement in the Bronze Age of northern Italy. PhD topics in this area that I have supervised have ranged widely including studies of diet and/or migration in 18th-19th century in England, Christians and Muslims in medieval Spain, the animals hunted by Upper Palaeolithic humans, humans from post-Medieval Riga in Latvia, tuberculosis sufferers in Roman Britain, Bronze Age inhabitants of Tepe Hissar in Iran.

Research interests

  • Bayesian statistical methods in archaeology, including dating, isotope analysis and predictive modelling
  • Developing new approaches to Bayesian chronology building for application to any dating methods
  • Statistics in human osteology, including age estimation
  • Chemical and biochemical methods in archaeology
  • Elemental and isotopic analysis of bones and teeth to investigate diet and migration, including weaning
  • Bone diagenesis
  • Chronology of hominid evolution

Esteem Indicators

  • 2015: Invited speaker British Academy Conference: 'Aliens, Foreigners & Strangers in Medieval England c.AD 500-1500', British Academy, 26 & 27 March 2015
  • 2014: Editorial Board, Journal of Archaeological Science Reports:
  • 2012: and 2015: Member of International Scientific Committee for the International Radiocarbon Conference:
  • 2000: Reviewer for academic journals and funding agencies: Since 2012:

    Journals: Antiquity, Radiation Measurements, Geochronometria, Journal of Archaeological Science, Journal of Human Evolution, Environmental Archaeology, Computer Applications in Archaeology conference proceedings, Quaternary Science Reviews, Proceedings of the Royal Society A, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, Journal of Quaternary Science, Radiocarbon, Dendrochronologia, Archaeometry, Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, Quaternary International, European Journal of Archaeology, Collegium Antropologicum, Annals of Applied Statistics, Journal of the North Atlantic, ArchéoSciences

    Funding agencies: National Science Foundation (USA), Marsden Fund (New Zealand), Leverhulme Trust, NERC


Authored book

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Other (Digital/Visual Media)


Supervision students